On Sunday night, the dam seemed to break in the confirmation fight over Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. The duo of Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer (whose work helped bring down then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman) reported that Deborah Ramirez has accused her former Yale University classmate Kavanaugh of exposing himself during a drunken episode when Kavanaugh was a freshman. Meanwhile, in the same report, an ex-girlfriend of Mark Judge, who Christine Blasey Ford says was in the room when Kavanaugh attacked her, says Judge confessed to an episode in which he and other young men had sex with a drunk woman. Republicans, you will recall, have said Judge will not be called as a witness.
Even before the last round of disturbing allegations, The Post reported on the preparation that Kavanaugh has gone through at the White House in advance of a hearing, scheduled for Thursday, in which he and Ford will appear. Someone, it seems, was already losing faith in Kavanaugh:
Kavanaugh grew frustrated when it came to questions that dug into his private life, particularly his drinking habits and his sexual proclivities, according to three people familiar with the preparations, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. He declined to answer some questions altogether, saying they were too personal, these people said.
“I’m not going to answer that,” Kavanaugh said at one point according to a senior White House official, who said that the questions were designed to go over the line and that he struck the right tone.
The tense preparations underscore the monumental stakes of public testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford …
If the source’s account of the prep sessions is even somewhat accurate, and if Kavanaugh will face questions about even more allegations, the prospect of a disastrous hearing for Kavanaugh and the Republicans looms. We don’t know if anti-Kavanaugh voices think he committed one or more sexual assaults, or if they worry he might sound as though he might have committed a sexual assault, or if they just think the entire process is disastrous for Republicans. If the drip-drip-drip of unfavorable stories about Kavanaugh’s preparation continues, we’ll know that the nomination is in deep trouble.
They will have no one to blame but themselves for setting up a number of lose-lose propositions:
- One cannot simultaneously claim there is not enough known and refuse to authorize an FBI follow-up to its original background check.
- When more allegations arise, one cannot perpetuate the notion that there is nothing to investigate.
- If the 11 male Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have to hide behind the skirts of an outside, female attorney who will ask questions of Ford, they will look cowardly and inept; if they do it themselves, they will no doubt look like bullies. (Sen. Ted Cruz, who faces a tough Senate reelection campaign in Texas, could easily blow his race by a true-to-form obnoxious performance.)
- The committee is not calling other witnesses, but the Farrow and Mayer account set forth a batch of people who might have critical information.
- The Republicans won’t put Judge under oath as a witness, strongly suggesting that he has something damaging to say. Since he won’t be there, Democrats will accept as true that the Georgetown Prep teens regularly got intoxicated, making it impossible for them to recall accurate events when they were stone-cold drunk.
- Through a Wile E. Coyote-like disastrous attempt to prove mistaken identity, Republicans in effect conceded that Ford was attacked. They also made it nearly impossible to convince the public that someone else was the attacker.
- Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who wanted to calm down President Trump, publicly conceded that nothing Ford said was going to change their minds. They thereby set a new low standard: Even if there is credible evidence of a sex crime, the nominee gets a pass. One wonders how many women will have to come forward before they take this seriously.
- Since Trump inadvertently launched the #WhyIDidn’tReport movement, it would be awfully hard for Republicans to grill Ford (or Ramirez) on the failure to report. Ironically, Ford got some inoculation, if you will, on her decision not to step forward as a 15-year-old. She should thank the president for jump-starting the #WhyIDidn’tReport movement.
One cannot help but sense that the (ultimately losing) hardball tactics that Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) used in negotiating Ford’s appearance were designed to dissuade her from appearing for testimony. Really, that was the best chance Republicans had to get past this. Now, with their own position damaged in ways described above, they have to bet that Ford isn’t a good witness for herself and that Ramirez doesn’t offer to appear, too. In any case, one senses that Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination is in deep trouble and even his current status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit might be imperiled.